Secretary of State Carlos Cascos Kicks Off Vote Texas Campaign

September 14, 2016
Contact: Alicia Pierce or Mari Bergman
512-463-5770

AUSTIN, TX – Texas Secretary of State Carlos H. Cascos unveiled the state’s voter education campaign today to a University of Texas at Austin undergraduate American history class of future and first-time voters. Vote Texas is a statewide, bilingual effort to engage voters through the Nov. 8 general election about the state’s photo ID requirements and additional options for voters who cannot obtain an approved photo ID, mandated by court order.

“I’m excited to kick off Vote Texas with these first-time and future voters who are the cornerstone of our democracy,” Cascos said. “As the state’s chief election officer, I take very seriously the responsibility of making sure every eligible Texan who wants to vote in the upcoming election has the necessary information to do so.”

Cascos talked with the students about the seven forms of acceptable photo identification voters will be asked to present at the polls in November. He also reminded them that voters who cannot obtain one of the seven approved forms of approved photo ID, and who have a reasonable impediment or difficulty to obtaining one of the approved forms of photo ID,  now have additional options when voting in person. The session was moderated by Dr. H.W. Brands, a noted American history expert and professor at the University of Texas.

“We couldn’t think of a better way to ensure many of these first-time voters are prepared for the polls in November,” Brands said. “I applaud the secretary’s efforts to educate all Texans on what they need to know before voting.”

Kassie Barroquillo of UT Votes, a nonpartisan student organization that organizes voter registration and education activities to increase civic engagement and electoral awareness, provided information on how to register to vote.

As part of Vote Texas, Cascos and members of his team will be traveling the state through Election Day talking to all Texans in both English and Spanish about voting. Efforts include special outreach to first-time voters – both students and new Texans – seniors, members of the military and minority groups. The campaign will include advertisements in English and Spanish, which will run via television, radio, community newspapers and online throughout the state.

Voters with questions about how to cast a ballot in these elections can call 1-800-252-VOTE and visit www.VoteTexas.gov.

Early voting for the Nov. 8 election begins Oct. 24 and ends Nov. 4.

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Voters who do not possess and cannot reasonably obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID have additional options at the polls

AUSTIN, TX – The Office of the Texas Secretary of State reminds voters who do not possess and cannot reasonably obtain a form of approved photo ID that they now have additional options when voting in person. These additional options apply to current and upcoming school tax elections and the November General Election.

“My agency is working to make sure Texans know about these changes and that all qualified voters are ready to cast a ballot,” said Secretary Cascos.

Currently, Texas voters who do not possess and cannot reasonably obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID have additional options when casting their ballots. As provided by court order, if a voter does not possess and is not reasonably able to obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID, the voter may vote by (1) signing a declaration at the polls explaining why the voter is reasonably unable to obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID, and (2) providing one of various forms of supporting documentation.

Supporting documentation can be a certified birth certificate (must be an original), a valid voter registration certificate, a copy or original of one of the following: current utility bill, bank statement, government check, or paycheck, or other government document that shows the voter’s name and an address, although government documents which include a photo must be original and cannot be copies. If a voter meets these requirements and is otherwise eligible to vote, the voter will be able to cast a regular ballot in the election.

  • The seven forms of approved photo ID are:
  • Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  • Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
  • Texas personal identification card issued by DPS
  • Texas license to carry a handgun issued by DPS
  • United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph
  • United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph
  • United States passport

With the exception of the U.S. citizenship certificate, the approved photo ID must be current or have expired no more than four years before being presented for voter qualification at the polling place.

Voters with a disability may continue to apply with the county registrar for a permanent exemption to showing approved photo ID (which now may be expired no more than four years) at the polls. Also, voters who (1) have a consistent religious objections to being photographed or (2) do not present one of the seven forms of approved photo ID because of certain natural disasters as declared by the President of the United States or the Texas Governor, may continue apply for a temporary exemption to showing approved photo ID at the polls.

Voters with questions about how to cast a ballot in these elections can call 1-800-252-VOTE.

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Secretary Cascos Reminds Texans Early Voting in Person begins Monday

AUSTIN, TX – Texas Secretary of State Carlos H. Cascos reminds Texans early voting at the polls begins Monday, Oct. 24 and runs through Friday, Nov. 4.

“In-person early voting is a convenient option for voters,” Secretary Cacscos said. “During early voting you can cast a ballot at any polling place in your county of registration and also avoid lines that may form on Election Day.”

Secretary Cascos also stressed that early voting is a way to ensure voters are able to vote even if they encounter unexpected events on Election Day.

“Sometimes things happen like a flat tire or a sick child,” Secretary Cascos said. “By voting early you don’t have to worry if you can’t make it to the polls on Election Day.”

Just like on Election Day, identification requirements will be in effect.

Voters who possess one of the seven forms of approved photo ID must use it at the polls. The seven forms of approved photo ID are:

  • Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  • Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
  • Texas personal identification card issued by DPS
  • Texas license to carry a handgun issued by DPS
  • United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph
  • United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph
  • United States passport

(With the exception of the U.S. citizenship certificate, the approved photo ID must be current or have expired no more than four years before being presented for voter qualification at the polling place.)

Currently, Texas voters who do not possess and cannot reasonably obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID have additional options when casting their ballots. As provided by court order, if a voter does not possess and is not reasonably able to obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID, the voter may vote by (1) signing a declaration at the polls explaining why the voter is reasonably unable to obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID, and (2) providing one of various forms of supporting documentation.

Supporting documentation can be a certified birth certificate (must be an original), a valid voter registration certificate, a copy or original of one of the following: current utility bill, bank statement, government check, or paycheck, or other government document that shows the voter’s name and an address, although government documents which include a photo must be original and cannot be copies. If a voter meets these requirements and is otherwise eligible to vote, the voter will be able to cast a regular ballot in the election.

Voters with questions about the registration process and how to cast a ballot can visit VoteTexas.gov or call 1-800-252-VOTE. Texans can join the #VoteTexas conversation this election by following Vote Texas’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram social platforms.

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Secretary Pablos Delivers Keynote Address At Hiring Our Heroes Transition Summit At Fort Bliss

“The best place to find qualified workers is right here” 

Secretary Pablos standing at a podium giving an address
Secretary Pablos delivers the keynote address to
the Hiring Our Heroes Transition Summit at Fort Bliss
in El Paso.

EL PASO, TX – Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos today delivered the keynote address at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes Transition Summit at Fort Bliss. The Hiring Our Heroes Transition Summit is a two-day event featuring panel discussions, recruiter training, and networking events for employers, military leaders, and job seekers. Secretary Pablos expressed his deep gratitude to the veterans for their service and highlighted Texas’ ongoing commitment to providing ample opportunities for veterans transitioning into the workforce.
 
“The relationship between Fort Bliss and El Paso is extremely unique, and the relationship our community leaders have built to bring more veterans into the workforce is unique as well,” Secretary Pablos said. “Companies want to know that a community like El Paso has a talent pipeline that can be relied upon in the present, but also in the future. The best place to find qualified workers is right here – you are already qualified, all we need to do is match your skill set with the right employers. My personal goal is that you all stay right here in the State of Texas.”

As of January 1, 2016, new veteran-owned business entities in the State of Texas can qualify for exemptions from certain filing fees through the Secretary of State’s Business Filings Division and the Texas franchise tax for the first five years of operation. Since that time, more than 430 new veteran-owned business entities have been formed in the State of Texas.
 
Learn more about benefits for veteran-owned businesses in Texas.

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Mattis, Tillerson Co-Host U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee Meeting

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2017 — Each nation gains security in concert with other nations, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said today at a meeting that he and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hosted with their Japanese counterparts at the State Department.

Mattis and Tillerson were hosts to Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera for the Security Consultative Committee meeting as part of the U.S. and Japan Consultative Committee meeting, and the four made remarks and took questions from reporters afterward.

The discussions examined how the United States and Japan would coordinate their response to the evolving regional security environment and strengthen their bilateral security and defense cooperation, and the participants also reviewed the continued realignment of U.S. armed forces in Japan, State Department officials said.

Useful Results

“We’ve completed warm and very productive, detailed conversations about the situation facing our nations, and we’ve achieved very highly useful results,” Mattis said of the morning’s meeting.

First, he said, the United States never takes alliances for granted, and the meeting reaffirmed the trust between the two nations. Second, the secretary said, the United States and Japan have deepened and broadened their combined military efforts by improving bilateral relations and exercises.

“The international community is speaking with one voice: North Korea must stop its dangerous actions as we work to maintain security and denuclearize the Korean Peninsula,” Mattis said.

Japan and South Korea are on the front line against the North Korean threat, he said, adding that the United States recognizes any confrontation with North Korea would pose an immediate danger to its allies and their populations.

“In light of this serious situation we face,” the secretary said, “we are accelerating implementation of the 2015 guidelines for the U.S.-Japan defense cooperation and continue to realign U.S. forces in Japan and Guam.”

New Forms of Cooperation

Both militaries also are cooperating in new ways, such emerging cooperation in space and counter space, cyber space, and ballistic missile defense and maritime security, Mattis said.

“Our two nations will demonstrate the strength of our alliance by continuing bilateral activities and by enhancing cooperation with the Republic of Korea,” he noted.

“We call on North Korea to choose a better path than one of provocation and threats,” Mattis said. “Such a path is not in its own best interest, nor in the best interest of any other nation.”

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDOD)

Mattis Congratulates South Korea's New Defense Minister

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2017 — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke by phone yesterday with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo to congratulate him on his confirmation for the position and to discuss a range issues related to the U.S.-South Korean alliance, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said in a statement released today. 

“Both Secretary Mattis and Minister Song strongly condemned North Korea’s second intercontinental ballistic missile test on July 28 and resolved to continue to closely coordinate responses to the North Korean threat,” White said. 

Ironclad Commitment

Mattis reaffirmed the ironclad U.S. commitment to defend South Korea and emphasized the military’s role in providing extended deterrence, she added, and expressed his commitment to the ongoing diplomatic effort to achieve the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Both defense leaders reiterated the importance of the alliance and expressed their commitment to build a stronger partnership based on mutual trust and cooperation, White said, noting that they will meet later this month in Washington.

Press Releases: Remarks With Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, and Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera at a Press Availability

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, good afternoon. I’d like to start by acknowledging the incident in Barcelona which has the hallmarks, it appears, of yet another terrorist attack. We offer our condolences to the loss of life and the injuries that have occurred to so many innocent people yet again. We will continue to monitor the situation. We stand ready to assist law enforcement, national security authorities in Spain. Our consulates in Barcelona and our entire Mission Spain team are currently assisting Americans in Spain who are affected by these events. We ask U.S. citizens in the area to let your loved ones know you are safe. Terrorists around the world should know the United States and our allies are resolved to find you and bring you to justice.

Secretary Mattis and I are grateful for the opportunity today to host Foreign Minister Kono and Defense Minister Onodera today. The bonds of America and Japan have – forged over previous decades will continue to endure. Today’s honest and productive discussions reaffirmed our mutual commitment to confronting threats to regional peace and security.

As you might imagine, we spent a fair amount of time discussing North Korea. North Korea’s recent intercontinental ballistic missile and other missile launches are unacceptable provocations, and they must stop immediately. We agreed to bolster our alliance capabilities to deter and respond to North Korea’s unacceptable behavior and other challenges to regional security. In cooperation with other nations, we will continue to employ diplomatic and economic pressure to convince North Korea to end its illegal nuclear and ballistic missile program.

I think, as was clear by all peace-seeking nations and the unanimous UN Security Council resolution that was adopted, as well as very strong statements being made by the ASEAN nations and others throughout the world, we all seek the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea. We again call upon all nations to fully enforce the UN Security Council resolution imposing additional sanctions on the regime in North Korea. We will remain vigilant against the North Korean threats through our military preparedness.

The United States will honor our treaty agreements with Japan without reservation, whether in times of peace or in the face of conflict. We will also cooperate to advance trilateral and multilateral security and defense cooperation with other partners in the region, notably the Republic of Korea, Australia, India, and other southeast Asian countries.

We also discussed our concern about the security environment in the East China Sea and South China Sea. The United States and Japan oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration of the Senkaku Islands, and we reaffirmed that Article V of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty covers these islands. We also oppose militarization activity in the South China Sea. Maritime disputes should be settled peacefully and maintain the freedom of navigation in accordance with the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea.

We maintain our unwavering commitment to the 2015 Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation, and we have instructed our staff to accelerate their implementation. We also will explore new and expanded activities in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance training and exercises, research and development, capacity building, and joint or shared use of facilities. Our conversation stressed the critical role that U.S. extended deterrence plays in ensuring the security of Japan, as well as the peace and stability of the Asia Pacific region, and we plan to deepen our engagement through the extended deterrence of dialogue.

Both the United States and Japan are committed to the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, which seeks to maintain operational and deterrent capability while limiting the impact on local communities. I welcome the resumption of the plan to construct the Futenma replacement at the Camp Schwab Henosaki[1] area and adjacent waters, as this is the only solution that addresses operational, political, financial, and strategic concerns, and avoids the continued use of the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. We hope to avoid further delays that will impede our ability to provide peace and security to Japan and the region. We do express our sincere appreciation to Okinawa for hosting U.S. military personnel and for playing a central role in the U.S.-Japan alliance.

The United States and Japan will continue our shared resolve to protect our citizens and work for security and stability in northeast Asia. Our conversations today reaffirmed that we are stronger and more secure when we work together, and we will continue that course of action.

And with that, I turn it to Foreign Minister Kono.

FOREIGN MINISTER KONO: (Via interpreter) My name is Taro Kono, Foreign Minister. At the outset, with regard to the incident that occurred in Barcelona, to all those that have been sacrificed and to their families, I’d like to express my deepfelt condolences. And to those that have been injured, I should also like to express my sympathy. Under no reason can terrorism be condoned. We absolutely condemn this. And at this very difficult time, I’d like to express our solidarity to Spain.

At the 2+2 conference between Japan and the United States, we had discussions, which were very rich in substance, allowing us to achieve major outcomes. I’d like to thank Secretaries Tillerson and Mattis and all those who have worked to make the conference a success.

The conference was convened based on instructions from the leaders of the United States and Japan on the occasion of Prime Minister’s Abe visit to the United States in February of this year. The security environment in the Asia Pacific is becoming increasingly severe. Never has there been a time that calls for a more united and concerted response by the United States and Japan. From such a perspective, we had an in-depth discussion on the strategic environment of the Asia Pacific region, beginning with the North Korean situation. At this first 2+2 conference since the start of the Trump administration we were able to reaffirm the strong commitment of the United States and Japan, which is extremely significant, the strong commitment to the region, which is extremely significant.

On North Korea, towards its denuclearization, we agreed we would ramp up effective pressure. We will call on China to take specific measures to make North Korea change its behavior. On the threat of ballistic missiles, as an alliance, we will strengthen our defense posture and capabilities and respond. We have agreed on this point. We have confirmed the importance of cooperation through the security treaty.

We shared our concerns regarding the situation surrounding East and South China Sea. We reaffirmed that the Senkaku Islands are within the scope of Article V of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and that we would oppose any unilateral behavior attempting to undermine Japan’s administration of the Senkaku Islands. For the peace and stability of East Asia and the East China Sea, we will continue to cooperate with the United States.

On the South China Sea, we have confirmed that we need to continue to engage ourselves and watch for any acts which would impede freedom of navigation. Under this severe security environment, under all situations, the alliance must secure seamless response, and it’s extremely important. And we agreed that we would properly examine ways to strengthen the alliance.

And in area of cyberspace and space, we would steadily promote Japan-U.S. cooperation in new areas. We were able to achieve agreement on this.

ROK, Australia, India, and Southeast Asian countries – we will promote more than ever before cooperation and security and defense. The coastal nations of the Indo-Pacific region and with regard to capacity building in the area of marine security, for Japan, we will provide assistance to the tune of approximately $500 million in the three years from this year to 2019. We want to deepen our cooperation with the United States on this front as well. For the transparent economic development of this region between Japan and the United States, we agreed that we would closely cooperate.

At the conference today, we reaffirmed that it is indispensable to steadily promote realignment of the U.S. armed forces in Japan from the perspective of maintaining the deterrence of Japan-U.S. alliance while mitigating the impact on Okinawa and other local regions. In order to avoid Futenma Air Station becoming a permanent facility, it was reaffirmed between the U.S. and Japan that the only solution was relocation to Henoko. I explained that in compliance with the present agreement between Japan and the United States that we would proceed with relocation to Henoko with strong resolve. We will make an all-out effort to realize the complete return of Futenma Air Station. I also pointed out that it is important to make the effort to have the understanding of the local citizens on issues such as that of Kadena Air Base.

As a result of the conference today, we were able to elucidate the path that the Japan-U.S. alliance should pursue in a security environment that is becoming increasingly severe. Based on the results obtained today, we want to firmly move forward with measures to further strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of a Japan-U.S. alliance. Thank you.

SECRETARY MATTIS: It’s been an honor for us to host Japan’s defense and foreign ministers here. I don’t think anything better demonstrates that importance that our two nations place on this alliance than our counterparts traveling here so soon after assuming their positions.

As you’ve heard, we’ve just completed warm and very productive, detailed conversations about the situation facing our nations, and we’ve achieved very highly useful results. First, of course, we never take alliances for granted, and what we’ve done is we’ve reaffirmed the trust between us.

Second, we have deepened and broadened our combined military efforts by improving on our bilateral relations and exercises. As President Trump noted in February, the United States commitment to defend Japan through the full range of military capabilities is unwavering under Article V of our mutual defense treaty and the extended deterrent commitment.

As demonstrated by the UN Security Council resolution and by the ASEAN communique, the international community also recognizes North Korea as a threat to Asia and to the world. Japan and the Republic of Korea are on the front line against the North Korean threat. We in the United States recognize any confrontation with North Korea would pose an immediate danger to our allies and their populations.

Today’s meeting is a reminder that each nation gains security in concert with other nations. The international community is speaking with one voice: North Korea must stop its dangerous actions as we work to maintain security and denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. In light of the serious situation we face, we are accelerating implementation of the 2015 Guidelines for the U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation and continuing to realign U.S. forces in Japan and Guam. Our militaries are also cooperating in new ways, and you’ve heard several of them mentioned here already. This includes our emerging cooperation in such areas as space and counterspace – cyberspace as well as ballistic missile defense and maritime security.

Together, we will deter and, if necessary, defeat any threat. Any initiation of hostilities will be met with an effective and overwhelming response. Our two nations will demonstrate the strength of our alliance by continuing those bilateral activities and by enhancing cooperation with the Republic of Korea. We call on North Korea to choose a better path than one of provocation and threats. Such a path is not in its own best interests nor in the best interest of any other nation.

Thank you. Minister Onodera.

DEFENSE MINISTER ONODERA: (Via interpreter) My name is Onodera. I think we had a wonderful discussion. First of all, I would like to express my heartfelt respect to Secretary Mattis and Secretary Tillerson for leading us to have such a great outcome of the meeting. In 2015, we have drawn up the guideline and we have changed the guideline following the new – the new legislation. And since that, the defense cooperation between Japan and U.S. has greatly progressed and the alliance has never been so solid.

However, if we look to the regional strategic environment in front of us, in front of our alliance, we have the pressing issue of North Korea. North Korea has plans to launch ballistic missiles to the waters close to Guam and it is also advancing on their efforts to launch ICBM-class ballistic missiles, miniaturizing nuclear weapons to warheads.

So for this threat of North Korea, at this meeting we agreed to increase the pressure and to strengthen the alliance capability. In light of the threat of North Korea, the four of us confirmed the importance of the unwavering U.S. commitment to extended deterrence. Also, the U.S. forces have been deploying even more assets in the Asia Pacific region and has been showing their commitment visibly to this region. I would like to highly evaluate the efforts of the United States and also, continuing with the United States, I would like to make efforts to enhance the defense capability and defense posture of Japan.

Also, we shared our concerns on East China Sea and South China Sea situation. We will deepen our defense cooperation in securing the peace and stability in East China Sea as well as engaging coastal nations in the South China Sea.

In order to secure a seamless response of the alliance to any situation, we must constantly continue our efforts to strengthen the alliance. Through today’s discussion, we were able to seek out a specific direction for our future efforts. Moving forward, we will accelerate the implementation of a guideline and we will further promote cooperation under the peace and security legislation. We will expand peacetime cooperation such as surveillance and joint training. And furthermore, we will continue to promote cooperation in ballistic missile defense, including acquisition of new assets, and enhanced capability in new domains such as space and cyberspace. Through this, we intend to strengthen further our joint responsive posture. Along with this, in order to strengthen our own defense capability, we intend to review the national defense program and also work on the new midterm defense program, and this was explained in the meeting today.

The presence of the U.S. forces in Japan is at the core for the alliance to function as deterrence. At the same time, the operation of U.S. forces should take into consideration the local residents and secure safety. These are indispensable. From this standpoint, we were able to confirm our steady advancement of the realignment of the U.S. forces in order to reduce the burden on the local people, maintaining the deterrence at the same time. The transfer of Futenma Air Station to Henoko would – is the only solution to avoid continuous usage of the Futenma Air Station, so we will steadily proceed with the construction of this transfer. Kadena Air Base issue and the Osprey are matters that I have renewed my request for the consideration to the local residents and securing the safety. In light of today’s outcome, we would – I would devote myself even further for the securing the safety and security of the people in preparation for any situation to occur.

MS NAUERT: Elise Labott from CNN for Secretary Tillerson. Elise.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Actually, I’d – I would love if both Secretary Tillerson and Mattis could answer a question on North Korea. You wrote in your op-ed last week that, obviously, the U.S. prefers a diplomatic solution to the crisis in North Korea, but you said that that diplomatic and economic efforts and pressure were, quote, backed by a credible military option. In recent days, the White House strategist Steve Bannon called the ratcheting – the diplomatic and economic ratcheting up of North – tensions with North Korea a, quote, “sideshow.” He said that there was no military solution and that the real issue is an economic war with China. Does this reflect some kind of new opinion by the administration or was he speaking for himself, and are you afraid that comments like this might dilute the credible military deterrent that is backing your diplomatic and economic efforts? Thank you.

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I don’t really have a comment on what Mr. Bannon’s remarks were in that particular interview. I read those. I think we have been quite clear as to what the policy and the posture towards North Korea is, and I think Secretary Mattis and I in that op-ed wanted to inform – as best we were able to do, inform the American people first, but also inform our important friends and allies as to what our approach is.

And our approach has been endorsed by the President. It is reviewed with him periodically in terms of the status of how the approach is working, and it is first and foremost, as you have seen, to undertake a very concerted, deliberate campaign of exerting pressure on the regime in North Korea to an extent that, as best we can tell – and we did study previous attempts over the past two decades. What’s different about this campaign is, I think, the level of international unity around this campaign, the level of cooperation we are getting from China and from others in the region, and the intensity with which we are carrying out the campaign.

Obviously, any diplomatic effort in any situation where you have this level of threat that we’re confronted with – a threat of proportions that none of us like to contemplate – has to be backed by a strong military consequence if North Korea chooses wrongly. And I think that is the message that the President has wanted to send to the leadership of North Korea, and it was really in response to this ever-escalating levels of threat and rhetoric that were coming from the regime in Pyongyang. And you’ve heard the words; you’ve seen the videos that they have produced. I think the President just felt it was necessary to remind the regime of what the consequences for them would be if they chose to carry out those threats. We are prepared. Our – we’re prepared militarily, we’re prepared with our allies to respond if that is necessary. That is not our preferred pathway, and that was – that’s been made clear as well.

So we continue our full-out efforts, working with partners, working with allies, to bring that pressure on the regime in North Korea with a view that at some point, with a unified international message like we’ve never had before, they will realize the level of isolation they find themselves in and that the future that they will face with that level of isolation is bleak and will only become bleaker if they continue this pathway. So that is – our effort is to cause them to want to engage in talks, but engage in talks with an understanding that these talks will led to a different conclusion than talks of the past. And so we will continue that effort diplomatically first and foremost, but knowing that North Korea sits with a significant capability already within their grasp, I think it is only prudent that they fully understand the consequences should they make a bad choice for themselves and, obviously, there are consequences for others as well.

MODERATOR: The next question from Japanese media. Mr. Sugimoto.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) My name is Sugimoto from Sankei Shimbun newspaper. My question is addressed to Minister Kono and Secretary Tillerson. The question is the following: It’s related to dialogue and pressure in connection with North Korea. With regard to North Korea, what conditions must be met for you to decide that you can start a dialogue? Could you outline your thinking? And in addition, at today’s conference, to China, which has influence over North Korea, you’ve asked for resolute measures to be taken. However – and there was agreement on this. However, up until now, with regard to China, they have not sufficiently applied the kind of pressure that the United States and Japan are seeking. In the efforts made by Japan and the United States, in what respect is it lacking so that you’re – China is not being fully mobilized, please?

FOREIGN MINISTER KONO: (Via interpreter) The July Japan-U.S.-ROK summit meeting confirmed that North Korea, if it changes its course and if it refrains from intimidating and provocative action and toward denuclearization, if it is ready to come back to serious dialogue, these measures to be taken are important, first and foremost. There’s no sense to dialogue for the sake of dialogue; we agreed on this point between Japan and the United States, or Japan, U.S., and ROK at the center.

The international community will continue to apply maximum pressure to North Korea. I think there’s a necessity of doing so. The trade amount with North Korea is such that 90 percent is accounted for by China, and their role is very important. And I agree with that. The new UNSC Resolution 2372, if that’s fully implement – strictly and fully implemented, foreign reserves of North Korea can be decreased to the tune of over $1 billion. China must fully and strictly implement – we would like to encourage China to strictly and fully implement these measures after the 15th. Oil and steel and seafood – China announced that it would restrict importation of this. As we saw an agreement to encourage a specific action by North Korea, we will work on China to take responsible and constructive action, and we would like to continue to seek that China do this.

MS NAUERT: Yeganeh Torbati from Reuters for Secretary Mattis.

QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Mattis, I wanted to ask you first about Afghanistan. Do you expect to have a decision on the administration’s South Asia strategy after tomorrow’s meeting at Camp David, and what should we expect that strategy to look like? And just very quickly, your service chiefs have spoken about the events of Charlottesville and condemning white supremacy and racism and hate, and I was just wondering if you wanted to add to any of those comments as well. Thank you.

DEFENSE SECRETARY MATTIS: Certainly. First, in response to CNN’s earlier question, I can just assure you that in close collaboration with our allies, there are strong military consequences if DPRK initiates hostilities.

In regards to the Afghanistan meeting tomorrow, we will meet with the President – Secretary Tillerson and I and several others on the national security team. We will move this toward a decision. As I said, I think it was yesterday, publicly, we are coming very close to a decision and I anticipate it in the very near future.

On the service chiefs and the comments after Charlottesville, these are leaders of our diverse armed forces. They simply said the same message that we have lived by for decades and we continue not to serve in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps; we serve in the United States Army, United States Navy, et cetera. And in that regard, it’s a widely diverse force. We look at E Pluribus Unum on our coins. Out of many, one. They were simply emphasizing on the battlefield we are one team and that’s the way we stay.

Thank you.

MODERATOR: One more question from the Japanese media. Mr. Shiga.

QUESTION: My name is Shiga from NHK. I have a question to Secretary Mattis and to Minister Onodera on the missile defense. North Korea has plan to launch some ballistic missile to the surrounding waters of Guam and we are seeing tension mount. In the 2+2 joint statement, the – it is incorporated that Japan’s role would be expanded in the alliance. When the missile is launched, what specific actions would the U.S. take?

And then for Japan, what would Japan’s role be in the missile defense? Also, what would the U.S. expect Japan to do in the case of the launch of the missile?

DEFENSE SECRETARY MATTIS: In the event of a missile launch towards the territory of Japan, Guam, United States, Korea, we would take immediate, specific actions to take it down.

Minister Onodera.

DEFENSE MINISTER ONODERA: (Via interpreter) Yes, simply if – my response would be in the event there’s an attack on Japan, then we will use the asset available to us for the missile defense and we will defend Japan. But should different circumstances occur, then we will solidify the relation that we have with the U.S. with a closer communication, we will defend the country. And that is – we discussed today.

FOREIGN MINISTER KONO: Thank you.

Press Releases: Joint Statement of the Security Consultative Committee

The text of the following statement was released by the Governments of the United States of America and Japan.

Begin Text:

I. Overview

The U.S.-Japan Alliance (“the Alliance”) is the cornerstone of the Asia-Pacific region’s peace, prosperity, and freedom. This dynamic partnership is also increasingly important in promoting values shared by both nations, including freedom, democracy, peace, human rights, free and fair markets, and the rule of law. The Ministers renewed their resolve to uphold the rules-based international order amid the challenging security environment.

Today the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee (“SCC”) charted a path forward for the Alliance in addressing the ongoing and emerging threats that pose a challenge to regional peace and security, based on the Joint Statement by the leaders of both countries on February 10, 2017. The SCC reaffirmed its commitment to implement the 2015 Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation and to pursue further ways to strengthen the Alliance. The Ministers also reaffirmed the Alliance’s commitment to the security of Japan through the full range of capabilities, including U.S. nuclear forces.

II. The Regional Strategic Environment

The Ministers condemned in the strongest terms North Korea’s recurring provocations and development of nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities, which have entered a new phase, and pose an increasing threat to regional and international peace and stability. The Ministers committed to bolster the capabilities of the Alliance to deter and respond to these threats. They also concurred on continuing to pressure North Korea, in cooperation with other countries, to compel it to take concrete actions to end its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and to achieve the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The Ministers called on the international community to comprehensively and thoroughly implement the United Nations Security Council resolutions including the newly adopted Resolution 2371. The Ministers strongly encourage China to take decisive measures to urge North Korea to change its course of action. The Ministers called on North Korea to end its systematic human rights violations and to immediately release all foreign nationals held in North Korea, including Japanese abductees and U.S. citizens.

The Ministers expressed continuing concerns about the security environment in the East China Sea. They also recalled the situation in early August 2016. The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of working together to safeguard the peace and stability of the East China Sea and reconfirmed that Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands and that the United States and Japan oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands.

The Ministers expressed serious concern about the situation in the South China Sea and reaffirmed their opposition to unilateral coercive actions by claimants, including the reclamation and militarization of disputed features, that alter the status quo and increase tensions. They reiterated the importance of the peaceful settlement of maritime disputes through full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, including arbitration. They also emphasized the importance of compliance with the international law of the sea, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, including respect for freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea. In this regard, the Ministers recalled the award rendered by the Arbitral Tribunal on July 12, 2016. The Ministers acknowledged the adoption of the framework of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) and look forward to the conclusion of a meaningful, effective and legally binding COC. The Ministers underlined the significance of continued engagement in the South China Sea, including through respective activities to support freedom of navigation, bilateral and multilateral training and exercises, and coordinated capacity building assistance.

III. Strengthening Security and Defense Cooperation

(1) Alliance Responses

The Ministers confirmed their shared intent to develop specific measures and actions to further strengthen the U.S.-Japan Alliance, including through reviewing roles, missions, and capabilities, to ensure seamless Alliance responses across a full spectrum of situations amid an increasingly challenging regional security environment. To that end, Japan intends to expand its role in the Alliance and augment its defense capabilities, with an eye on the next planning period for its Mid-Term Defense Program. The United States remains committed to deploying its most advanced capabilities to Japan. To expedite work already underway in this regard, the Ministers gave the following guidance to their staffs:

  • Accelerate implementation of the 2015 Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation and pursue additional types of cooperation under Japan’s Legislation for Peace and Security; and,
  • Explore new and expanded activities in various areas, such as Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), training and exercises, research and development, capacity building, and the joint/shared use of facilities.

(2) Implementation of the 2015 Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation

The Ministers reaffirmed the two Governments’ unwavering commitment to continue implementation of the 2015 Guidelines. The Ministers welcomed important steps within the Alliance to operationalize mutual asset protection and to bring into force the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) as milestones in enhancing bilateral defense cooperation. The Ministers noted the successful use of the Alliance Coordination Mechanism (ACM) to respond to regional events. The Ministers reaffirmed the critical role that U.S. extended deterrence plays in ensuring the security of Japan as well as the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, and they expressed their intention to deepen engagement on this subject through the Extended Deterrence Dialogue. They also confirmed their shared commitment to enhance and accelerate cooperation in such areas as bilateral planning, air and missile defense, non-combatant evacuation operations, defense equipment and technology cooperation, intelligence cooperation and information security. The Ministers affirmed their desire to expand bilateral cooperation in space, particularly in resiliency, Space Situational Awareness, hosted payloads and satellite communications. They called for deepening consultations in a timely manner on Alliance responses to serious cyber incidents, underscoring the critical importance of further enhancing Allied deterrence and defense.

IV. Trilateral and Multilateral Cooperation

The Ministers highlighted ongoing Alliance efforts to advance trilateral and multilateral security and defense cooperation with other partners in the region, notably the Republic of Korea, Australia, India and Southeast Asian countries. The Ministers underscored the importance of cooperating to promote a rules-based international order, taking note of the United States’ continued commitment to maintain a strong presence in the region and Japan’s initiatives demonstrated by its “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.”

Regarding cooperation with the Republic of Korea, the Ministers emphasized the need to enhance information-sharing and expand trilateral exercises, including missile warning, anti-submarine warfare, and maritime interdiction operations exercises.

Regarding cooperation with Southeast Asian nations, the Ministers affirmed their intention to further enhance capacity building programs and defense equipment and technology transfers in areas including maritime security, defense institution building, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR). Recognizing the importance of upholding the maritime order in the region, the Ministers confirmed their shared commitment to launch a whole-of-government dialogue on maritime security capacity building, which would incorporate existing efforts in this regard.

V. The U.S. Force Presence in Japan

(1) Realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan

The Ministers, in view of maintaining a robust U.S. force presence in Japan, reaffirmed the two Governments’ commitment to implement the existing arrangements for the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, which aim to maintain operational and deterrent capability in an increasingly severe security environment, while also mitigating the impact on local communities and enhancing support from local communities for the presence and operations of U.S. forces in Japan.

As an essential element of this effort, the Ministers welcomed the resumption of Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF) construction and reconfirmed that the plan to construct the FRF at the Camp Schwab-Henokosaki area and adjacent waters is the only solution that addresses operational, political, financial, and strategic concerns and avoids the continued use of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma. The Ministers reaffirmed the two Governments’ unwavering commitment to the plan and underscored their strong determination to achieve its completion as soon as possible and the long-desired return of MCAS Futenma to Japan. In this context, the Ministers called for the steady implementation of the construction plan, noting the adverse impact of further delays on the ability of the Alliance to provide for peace and security.

The Ministers welcomed the return of a major portion of the Northern Training Area in 2016, the single largest land return in Okinawa since 1972. They noted progress on the land returns that were announced in December 2015 and called for further implementation of those returns. The Ministers also reaffirmed the importance of steady implementation of the Consolidation Plan for Facilities and Areas in Okinawa and their commitment to update the plan as soon as possible.

The Ministers also welcomed progress in the relocation of a total of approximately 9,000 U.S. Marine Corps personnel, along with their associated dependents, from Okinawa to locations outside of Japan, including Guam. They confirmed the steady implementation of the Guam International Agreement.

The Ministers welcomed Japan’s commitment to make utmost efforts to secure a permanent field carrier landing practice facility as soon as possible.

The Ministers confirmed their intent to continue to promote aviation training relocation, including tilt-rotor/rotary wing training relocation, which has helped to mitigate the impact of training activity on Okinawa.

(2) Host Nation Support (HNS)

The Ministers welcomed the entry into force of the current Special Measures Agreement (SMA) in April 2016, which serves as a pillar of the Alliance and a symbol of Japan’s enduring support for the U.S. military presence in Japan. The Ministers confirmed that the overall level of HNS is to be maintained roughly at the Japan Fiscal Year 2015 level. The Ministers reaffirmed that the Facilities Improvement Program (FIP) funding in the current SMA period is to be no less than a budget of 20.6 billion yen per year.

(3) Other Issues

The Ministers reaffirmed the two Governments would promote joint/shared use to enhance interoperability and deterrence, build stronger relationships with local communities, and strengthen the Self-Defense Forces’ force posture, including in Japan’s southwestern islands.

The Ministers reiterated their determination to address issues related to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) through mutual consultations. The Ministers welcomed the entry into force of supplementary agreements regarding environmental stewardship and the civilian component, and they stressed the importance of steadily implementing these agreements. The Ministers acknowledged the United States’ enhanced training and orientation processes for personnel with SOFA status.

Dunford: North Korean Threat Can Be Peacefully Resolved

BEIJING, Aug. 17, 2017 — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff believes that the diplomatic and economic pressure campaign aimed at North Korea is making progress and the odds are improving that the nuclear and ballistic missile issues can be solved peacefully, he said today.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford spoke with reporters after meetings here and in Seoul, South Korea. He will travel next to Tokyo to speak with Japanese officials following his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

There are many hurdles to overcome, but South Korea, Japan, the United States and China all seem to have the same concern about a nuclear-armed North Korea, the chairman said. “I do believe there is unanimity in seeking a diplomatic and an economic solution to the current crisis in North Korea,” Dunford told reporters.

The end state, of course, is a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has developed atomic bombs and may be close to placing them upon intercontinental ballistic missiles that could target U.S. treaty allies South Korea and Japan as well as American targets in the Pacific, and, possibly, the homeland.

U.N. Resolution

Dunford said he believes the U.N. Security Council vote imposing sanctions on Chinese exports was a great first step. “We have a long way to go, but I am encouraged by the strong commitments of all to enforce those sanctions,” the chairman said. “The passage of the sanctions is step one, enforcement of those sanctions are what is most important.

The unanimous vote is aimed at stopping North Korean missile tests and included sanctions banning $1 billion in North Korean exports and capping the number of North Korean migrant workers. China, North Korea’s only ally and biggest export market, announced it would begin implementing the ban almost immediately.

Around 90 percent of North Korea’s trade is with China, and Chinese officials appear serious about enforcing the U.N. action, U.S. officials said. “And the reports I’ve heard since I’ve been in Beijing have been positive in terms of the Chinese commitment to enforce those sanctions,” Dunford noted.

“I don’t think any of us believe that economic and diplomatic pressure alone … or this campaign will result in denuclearization,” the chairman said. “But what Secretary [of State Rex] Tillerson has articulated is that the diplomatic and economic pressure will cease the testing, cease the development of nuclear programs and set, perhaps, the political conditions for moving forward in the broader issues that effect North and South Korea.” 

A United Front

The United States, South Korea and Japan are approaching the issue as an alliance. The chairman’s first stop before Beijing was in Seoul and his last stop will be in Tokyo. He said he wants to ensure transparency with allies and friends in the region. “I think we’ve had a very transparent exchange with our Chinese interlocutors about North Korea as well,” Dunford said.

The chairman said he is leaving Beijing feeling encouraged. “I began to be encouraged when the United Nations Security Council passed the sanctions resolution,” he said. “That is as forceful a declaration of the international community’s perspective on this issue as we’ve seen.”

Dunford said the response from world capitals has also given him encouragement that there is the will to enforce sanctions.

“I do believe right now — there’s a long way to go — but we are on a path that there is a possibility, and I hope a probability, that we can resolve this peacefully,” he said. “I certainly believe there is a chance.”

The diplomatic and economic pressure is designed to set the political conditions for very difficult complicated long-term issues to be addressed, the chairman said.

There is still a threat from North Korea, Dunford said. Kim Jong Un having ballistic missiles melded with nuclear warheads would be a significant threat to the region and the United States. “That is unacceptable, and that is what President [Donald J.] Trump has said,” the chairman said. “We’re all working toward a peaceful solution. On all counts, that is the best way to approach this. But we [in DoD] get paid to develop military options, and we’ve been in discussion with our president about military options. If the president comes to us with a decision to use military force, we will provide him options.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

Colombia: “Violence isn’t only something out there; it also exists within the home”

Despite the end of Colombia’s 50-year long conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of ColombiaPeople’s Army (FARC-EP) in November 2016, the country still faces many challenges. Other armed groups and criminal organizations are still active. In some urban settings, poverty and the absence of the state create a breeding ground for violence that has serious consequences for people’s lives and health.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has provided physical and mental health care to victims of violence in the port cities of Buenaventura and Tumaco since 2014. MSF psychologist Brillith Martínez describes working in Buenaventura, which has become one of the main corridors for drug trafficking to Central America and the United States. Sixty-five percent of the city’s residents live in extreme poverty and do not have access to basic services.

Violence is contagious. I remember a woman who came to our office in Buenaventura with her three sons. The youngest had missed school for three years running. The only thing the oldest one wanted was to get a gun and join one of the armed groups. The middle child was always stealing things. He entered houses to take whatever he found or came home with things belonging to other children in the neighborhood. And the mother, obviously, was depressed.

As her story unfolded, we discovered that the family had been displaced three years ago—those same years the youngest one had missed school. And they had been living next to a casa de pique, a place where people who disappear are taken to be killed and dismembered. These children had lived there, next to that house, in a neighborhood where murders are routine, and where, nearly every time they left their house, they’d come across a dead body.

I first started working in Buenaventura a year and a half ago as a psychologist with MSF to tackle the consequences of what we call Other Situations of Violence (OSV). The displacement, disappearances, murders, sexual abuse and urban violence caused by criminal organizations are part of a legacy of conflict in this city.

This woman never imagined that she or her sons would receive psychological treatment. She only came to our clinic when she didn’t know what to do anymore. She thought that by leaving the violence in the past, everything else would go away. Here, violence is so normalized that many people are convinced that’s just what life handed them, that it was just how they had to live.

They were resigned to the violence. Especially the women, they are the ones most affected by it. Nearly all patients who arrive at the clinic have been sexually abused. And frequently, the abuse has happened repeatedly since childhood, when the abuser was a family member or someone they knew, and continued during the teenage years when girls begin to go out alone.

And there are the mothers. Mothers who have lost their children to murder or disappearances. Mothers whose whole families have been killed, mothers who are displaced and penniless, single mothers and mothers who have been brutally abused. Violence isn’t only something out there; it also exists within the home, within the family.

For the vast majority here, daily survival is already a feat. Many don’t know if they will eat today. In these circumstances, psychological treatment and mental health are the least of their worries.

Another problem we have is the lack of medical infrastructure and health care personnel. For instance, there is not even a single psychiatrist in Buenaventura. If someone needs psychiatric care, they have to go to Cali, two-and-a-half hours away by road. Most people who live here can’t afford the trip. So, in the end, most victims don’t receive comprehensive treatment.

MSF offers a free telephone-based care program, which is the way most of our patients have reached us. Some of them come to us through our in-person programs, but we deal with many more over the phone. This way, we ensure that women who don’t want anyone to see them entering the clinic—and therefore know that they have been victims—can also receive care.

We also save lives over the phone. There are people who have suffered so much that now they only think about hurting themselves. So many people tell us, “I came here because I didn’t know what else to do, because if not, I’d just kill myself.” When you get someone in that state to climb out of that pit, it’s highly likely that person will help someone else, and then that person will help another, and so on.

When MSF helps a single individual, we are also indirectly helping an entire family, a neighborhood, a whole community.

Read Colombia: People Continue to Suffer from Violence Despite Peace Deal